Photo: Veiko Tõkman

A Talsinki tunnel would integrate a twin Harju County/Uusimaa region

Ülle Rajasalu Harju County Governor

Dear inquisitive Reader, I hope that reading about the findings of the Talsinki workshop will spur your own ideas into action. This volume is really a collection of dreams that, with good will and positive action, could become a new reality – one that will make the world even more open.

It’s a safe assumption that you have some ties to Tallinn or Helsinki or maybe even Harju County or Uusimaa specifically. This is the navel of the world for us – the start of every trip and the point where we return. Maybe it’s because of this that we want to be on the visible part of the map for the rest of the world, not just on the edges. On a planet that is increasingly interconnected, it’s important to be located at the place where roads meet and business activity intersects. The more important the position on the map, the more affluence and culture there is.

The idea to connect the two capital cities on the facing shores of the Gulf of Finland is both new and very old. A student concept involving a giant bridge supported by balloons dates back to 1871. A bridge between Estonia and Finland also has a special place in folklore, starting from the national awakening of the late 19th century to the punk lyricism of J.M.K.E. It’s something more than just a desire to get across an expanse of water with dry feet.

Tallinn and Helsinki are working feverishly to remain internationally competitive and draw more capital, jobs and tourists to their cities. Everything tends to gravitate toward big cities. We probably don’t want to try to compete with London in terms of population, but at least in the Baltic Sea region, we should try to position ourselves right at the centre. We can do that in a smart way, by uniting the potential of the two countries into one twin region.

With its 2.5 million inhabitants and interesting cultural layers, the Talsinki metropolitan region would be a real player. Tallinn offers a storied history and a young, vibrant city rising from chaos, while Helsinki’s calling card is its inimitable design and a gateway to “Nordic cool”. And that’s certainly not all. In short, we are close enough to each other yet different enough to complement each other and be seen as interesting both by our neighbour and the whole world.

Harju County has been a leader of the connectedness movement on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. Whereas the idea of the tunnel was first proposed in 1992 by Ålborg, the concept was just two years later mentioned in Harju County’s main planning document. Big ideas fell on fertile soil in the years following the restoration of the Republic of Estonia – the country was young but boldly breaking into the world community. Later on, the Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio organization looked for ways of developing a twin city. An analysis of transport strategies for the two cities led to the logical conclusion that perhaps ferries are becoming obsolete. The tunnel seemed like a logical idea that could integrate the cities into one and link them with the rest of the world (Rail Baltic, Helsinki Airport, etc.). Why do cities need to be tied into one? What would we gain from that?

Talsinki has four predominant local languages, in addition to the world’s major languages, and exciting new meeting opportunities as a platform for new ideas. Together, two small cities would be able – in the European context as well – to be much bigger than the sum of their parts. There would be more of everything: educational opportunities, colourful culture, investments, capital and other resources. That means a more open world. Talsinki can and should become the world’s most dynamic population centre. We would live in the smartest, greenest, bluest (because of the sea) and more liveable metropolitan region. The Metro would also serve both city centres, and the city football rivalry would overshadow the Estonian Football Association’s annual championship. The need to master more than three languages would give us a definite competitive edge over the rest of the world.

We would be both exotic and familiar/safe. A walk through the city would offer a great deal to discover and different cultures, depending on whether you go from Lasnamäe to Töölö or from Pasila to Tallinn Old Town.

If we get to know each other and consider it all ours, and if we have friends on both sides of the Gulf of Finland, we will be richer for it, and we will have at least four times more prospects in our lives. The tunnel is just a means to achieve it all!

October 2016